A Tale of Two Brains in Business: Mars vs. Venus

Over 400 women and about 5 men attended the AICPA’s Women’s Conference in Washington DC last week.   This was a gathering of “big firm” leaders, with little representation from the tiny firms, where I like to play.  Nevertheless, women (and some men, especially shy, introverted ones) from large and small firms share some of the same issues and struggles in advancing their careers and businesses.

One thing was crystal clear:  What we’re doing now is not working, or it’s working at a glacial pace.  We actually lost ground during the recession years and are now going backwards.    The statistics are even worse in small firms, where 80 percent of the talent pool are women but only 12 percent are partners.

We need to acknowledge that in the workplace, women do NOT get men, and men do NOT get women.   It happens in dating, so it should not be a surprise when it happens at work!  Luckily, we now know dozens of reasons why and have hundreds of tools and skill builders to help.  Here are just a few revelations from brain science.

His and Her Brains

Just in case it’s not clear, the brains of men and women contain dozens of physical differences, leading to two completely different thinking patterns, but also two completely different ways of viewing our environments.

The differences occur on the chemical level – we all know about estrogen and testosterone – and there is even more to it than those two chemicals.  There are also significant differences in brain region sizes and capacities, which provide a lot of ahas when you understand these differences.

But most importantly, there are differences in the brain wiring.  Here’s just one telling example.

Women have an exquisite ability to detect emotions in other people.  This trait is especially useful in raising children not just for the sake of the child but also to nurture and maintain a support system of people that contribute to raising the child when the mother is tired or busy.

In men’s brains, there is no similar wiring to detect facial recognition of emotions at a nuanced level.   They simply cannot tell if they have done something to hurt a woman’s feelings until the woman expresses extreme emotion, such as cry, which is what women are taught never to do in business.  This difference in men and women leads to lots of disconnects, hurt feelings, and miscommunications.

The good news is that when women understand this, they can adjust their communications accordingly.  Instead of crying, they can take a firmer stand.  They can even raise their voices and let men know how important the issue is.  And men can intentionally develop this wiring if they want to, through practice.

Honoring Each Gender

In my coaching programs, I am delighted that both men and women are finding success in their businesses.  In the smaller firms, we’re lucky we have far fewer politics and less need for diversity programs at our size businesses.  But we can still benefit from knowing a little more about the opposite sex and how they think differently.  It’s true in dating, and it’s helpful at work as well.

If you would like for me to develop a program on this, let me know your interest.  We already offer these programs at the corporate level under our BrainWays Training and Development brand, and I can adapt them for small accounting firms too.